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Conduct A Formal Kickoff For Your Projects


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The Significance of Ceremony

With the increasing pace of business, there is a tendency to favor a “Just go do it!” mentality and underplay the significance of ceremony. That attitude can work to the detriment of project success, because taking the time to plan and conduct a formal project kickoff meeting, involving both team members and the sponsoring manager(s), helps in a number of ways.

First, it signals to the entire company that this project is something supported by management and therefore worthy of support from others. Second, it provides a chance for the team to review (or develop) the project charter. Having a common understanding of purpose is critical to being an effective team. Third, it gives the team a chance to interact with management and establish rapport that may help later in the project. Fourth, it gives team members a chance to decide how they want to conduct the team’s business. Last but not least, it gives team members a chance to get to know each other personally in a low-pressure situation.

In short, a good kickoff meeting will help make sure that everyone is starting on the same page and headed in the same direction. Failure to understand management expectations has historically been one of the biggest contributors to failed projects. In contrast, giving the team members time to establish relationships among themselves and with management will pay big dividends down the road when the team goes through difficult times (which all teams do).

To have a successful project kickoff meeting you should:

Identify which stakeholders should attend:

Minimally, you want all team members present and the manager(s) with ultimate accountability for the results. Depending on the project, you may also want to invite staff from the work areas likely to be affected by the project (to help set their expectations and get their buy-in) and/or representative customers whose needs you are addressing.

Plan for management presentations: Sure, you could simply pass along what you know about management’s requirements to your team members. But nothing will emphasize the need for, importance of, and commitment to a project quite like hearing it from a manager.

Use time effectively: This first meeting will set the tone for all future team meetings. Employ team meeting tools—agendas, flip charts, discussion methods, etc.—to make sure the time is used well.

“Kickoff meetings can energize a team . . . and rapidly promote team cohesion.”

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“Project Management: 24 steps to help you master any project” by Gary R. Heerkens is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Purchase the book on Amazon.